Saturday, February 25, 2012

David Hockney's Walking Man

With his blockbuster exhibition at the Royal Academy, A Bigger Picture, David Hockney has achieved the almost impossible. He has got the British public excited about art. I don't mean the people who usually go to exhibitions and buy art books, I mean people who normally wouldn't have any interest in an exhibition, or any opinion save, "A child of two could do it." Having an aversion to crowds, I haven't seen the show, only the catalogue. Friends who have seen it have divided sharply into two - those who are exhilarated by the vibrant colour, the ambition, and the artist's responsiveness to the landscape and seasons of his native Yorkshire, and those who find the whole thing shallow and glib. The iPad drawings have come in for particular scorn, while the charcoal drawings seem to have pleased everyone. The iPad and iPhone drawings reproduce well, but it may be that the lack of surface, and that vital sense of the craftsman's hand, is disappointing in a gallery setting. I've always particularly admired Hockney as a draughtsman and for his graphic sense, and would like to be able to wow you in this post with a wonderful etchings and lithographs. But I only have one Hockney print, his lithograph Walking Man from 1964.

David Hockney, Walking Man
Lithograph, 1964

I think this a marvellously expressive work, and a fine example of Hockney's Pop Art style of the 1960s, which is perhaps the most innovative period of his work. 1500 copies of Walking Man were issued by Galerie Krugier, Geneva, in Suites 8, a portfolio marking the exhibition Rencontres; Jeune Peinture et Sculpture Internationales. 200 copies were hand-signed; mine is one of the 1300 initialled in the stone. This lithograph was probably printed by Gallay in Geneva, but the 7 original lithographs in the portfolio were printed at ateliers in Paris, Zurich, and Geneva, and it is not explicitly stated which was printed where. I'd be interested to know if Hockney realised when he made the lithograph that the finished prints would have a vertical central fold; if he did, he decided cheekily to position his walking figure right in the centre of the sheet. Another cheeky element to this work is that Hockney must have known that Galerie Krugier also represented Alberto Giacometti, so this walking man is in part a witty tribute to Giacometti's. The other lithographs were by various European Pop Artists: Horst Antes, André Bertholo, Henri Luginbühl, Bernard Rancillac, Hervé Telemaque, and Ghislain Uhry.


Groslier said...

Comme beaucoup d'artistes anglais D Hockney est un esprit libre… ; parfois "inégale" son œuvre poursuit son chemin avec fraîcheur, ténacité et sincérité. S'il n'existe pas de "modèle" à suivre, il est des exemples pour tout ceux qui ont du courage.

Neil said...

You're right, Thomas. Hockney's long career has been an outstanding example of an artist sincerely devoted to his art, and always willing to embrace new challenges, and new technologies. I very much recommend the recent book by Martin Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney. Hockney speaks with such clarity and insight into the artistic process.